Yes, Richard Widmark startled movie audiences as sadistically crazed Tommy Udo in 1947’s Kiss of Death. But he didn’t always play the whacko
In the 1952 thriller, Don’t Bother To Knock, Widmark portrays an airline pilot who becomes chummy with an interesting young woman at a New York hotel. She’s played by no less than Marilyn Monroe (below with Widmark) and — it turns out that she is the nutcase.
And although he was noted for heavy drama, Widmark could occasionally take a turn in comedy. One was 1958’s The Tunnel of Love, a romantic caper with Widmark opposite Doris Day (below) about a childless couple’s quest for parenthood. The director: Gene Kelly.
Now to the answers to our Richard Widmark Quiz:
1) Question: Although he excelled at playing out-of-control screen crazies in a number of pictures, Widmark was offscreen a genuinely nice guy, a well educated Midwesterner and an all-American type. a) True; or b) False.
1) Answer: a) True. Born in Sunrise Township, Minnesota, Widmark grew up in a secure, stable family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He was an honor student, athlete and president of his senior class at Lake Forest College in Illinois. He had planned to study law, but his love of movies and acting intervened. And, yes, Widmark was a pretty nice guy.
2) Question: Widmark won his lone Oscar nomination for which one of his pictures? a) 1961’s Judgement at Nuremberg; b) 1954’s Hell and High Water; c) 1960’s The Alamo; or d) 1947’s Kiss of Death.
2) Answer: Widmark was nominated as best supporting actor for his performance in d) Kiss of Death. He did not win; Edmund Gwenn did for Miracle on 34th Street.
3) Question: Which one of the following titles was Widmark’s favorite, and why? a) 1951’s Halls of Montezuma; b) 1950’s Panic in the Streets; or c) 1950’s Night and the City; or d) 1948’s Road House.
3) Answer: b) Widmark said his personal favorite was 1950’s Panic in the Streets, directed by Elia Kazan. The reason: Widmark didn’t play the crazed heavy. Jack Palance did. Widmark was cast as an upstanding government doctor tracking down a plague-infested killer within 48 hours, before the disease is spread to the public at large. This is a good picture worth another look.
4) Question: Which one of the following studio bosses stepped in at a crucial moment to launch Widmark’s long screen career? a) Dore Schary; b) Darryl Zanuck; c) Harry Cohn or d) Carl Laemmle.
4) Answer: b) It was the 20th Century Fox boss who signed Widmark to a seven-year contract, turning him from the stage to movies. Zanuck insisted on the casting of the actor as Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death over the objection of the movie’s director Henry Hathaway. He thought Widmark was too clean cut. Zanuck prevailed and the rest is…..
5) Question: Widmark made a raft of westerns in his career, including two for director John Ford. Can you name these two?
5) Answer: 1961’s Two Rode Together, with James Stewart; and 1964’s Cheyenne Autumn with Karl Malden and Carroll Baker.